Thursday, September 29, 2011

My active blog is called Mystic Coffee
 Lots of new writerly type posts. Check it out! 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Yoda is a Reader Cat, one of a rare breed, like the Guardian Cats. Here you see him after he just finished reading one of the proof copies. The eyes tell you everything. Yoda totally relates to the hero, Marco. They are both tabby cats, so he feels a special kinship to Marco.
When I asked him if he liked the book...he purred a 10 (on a scale of 1-10) and asked me to leave a copy on his bed. He's a cat of few words, but I think he wanted to make sure I didn't give away his book.
~ ~ ~
The print edition went through three proofings before final approval on the 15th. It then takes Amazon 5-7 days before it appears on the main site, but authors get their own store to sell their books. So, until they're up & running with the big boys, you can BUY THE REAL BOOK here.
To help kickstart the book launch, I'm offering some promotionals.
For 3 days only, a 20% coupon for the print edition. Use this code upon checkout:SF6HYFVZ
For the next two weeks, help promote my book and be eligible to win:
  • a $50 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card
1.  To be eligible for the gift card, enter your email where it says 'Sign up for emails' in the sidebar. Don't worry I'm not selling you out and won't spam you. Just share, tweet and email your friends and tell them about the book.
2. Then let me know how you'd shared it. Either
  • drop me a note at globalcats [@] gmail [dot] com (remove spaces & brackets)
  • use my regular email if you have it
  • leave a comment here on my blog
Thanks! Contest ends on July 31st.
Coming tomorrow: I'll post book sightings with real people.
~ ~ ~
Where to get your copy of Guardian Cats in all formats.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Guardian Cats getting ready to launch!

In case you landed here because of my Google profile, I should let you know that I'm launching the GUARDIAN CATS on July 18th (2011). For more in depth coverage, visit my writer's blog, Mystic Coffee.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Monthly Book Giveaway!

I have to phase out this blog because I have two of them and can barely keep up with one. Especially being in the throws of pre-publishing book launch for the print version of Guardian Cats. 
So I'd love to have you follow me over to Mystic Coffee, my authors/writer's blog which just got a new makeover. Take a look. I'll make it worth your while because I'm featuring a Monthly Book Giveaway and focusing on Middle Grade fiction which is my favorite genre. 
MONTHLY BOOK GIVEAWAY? Yes, I'll be giving away a brand new copy (your choice of print or e-book) of some of your favorite MG writers. My first giveaway will be Gennifer Choldenko's latest book, No Passengers Beyond This Point which just came out in February. I've ordered a copy and it's in the mail. Gennifer's other books are Al Capone Does My Shirts, Notes from a Liar and Her Dog, and If a Tree Falls at Lunchbreak.
The next giveaway will most likely be my book, Guardian Cats and the Lost Book of Alexandria.
See you there!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Free a free copy of my book!

I'm giving away a free copy of GUARDIAN CATS at

Just click on the 'Win my Book' widget in the right hand column, which will take you to where you can enter to win all kinds of free books besides mine. Simple games like Hangman and Book Cover Memory Match, help you win the points you need to win free copies of books authors are promoting. Did I mention that you can enter to win Kindles and iPad too!

Pretty cool tool.

Give away date is June 30th so go have some and fun be sure to bid on my book. You only need 1,000 points to win. Thanks!

To bid on my book at Freado, click on the Prizes tab, then scroll down to categories, choose either Sci-Fi or Children’s Books, then scroll down until it you see it, then you can bid when you’ve earned 1,000 points. Good luck!
Of course, if you don't want to wait that long, you can get it on Amazon, now only 2.99 for Kindle.
Guardian Cats and the Lost Books of Alexandria

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What are your favorites when it comes to picture books?

Since I reviewed The Rice Bag Hammock yesterday, I've been caught up looking a picture books, both classics and new releases.

I usually think of bedtime-type stories when I think of picture books, but running across this one reminded me of all the 'how things work' type of books my kids read.

I'm really excited about the new picture books I see coming out. If a book looks like one I'd read to my grand kids, I'll be adding it to my Amazon store so check it out. (There's a bookstore tab at the top of my blog in case you lose this post.) This new release really fits the bill. I can tell my kids would have loved it.

"Award-winning author and illustrator Lisa Campbell Ernst takes a closer look at the great outdoors as she celebrates young children's inquisitiveness about the world around them. Ernst describes the inner workings of acorns, bubbles, puddles, ants, wagons, clouds, and birds in detailed, yet easy-to-understand language. Her meticulous and cleverly labeled drawings inventively illustrate the functioning of everyday objects."

Let me know... what are your favorites when it comes to picture books? Include anything from what you remember as a kid to what you're reading to your kids now. 

Thanks to my readers who shared their favorites yesterday. New additions to my bookstore include: Miss Rumphius, The Giving Tree, Harold and the Purple Crayon, Guess How Much I Love You, and Love You Forever. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Review of The Rice Bag Hammock | a picture book

While waiting for the proof of my book, I've been restocking my bookstore. Today I'm featuring a picture book to kick off my new Picture Book section.

Here's my Goodreads review of The Rice Bag Hammock by Shaeeza Haniff, illustrated by Swafeha Khan

"Picture books portray an illusion of simplicity and are usually underrated in the book world. The Rice Bag Hammock is simple, but as a writer I know how much goes on behind the scenes to make simple look effortless which this book achieves.
Like the threads of the rice bags woven into a hammock, this story is woven from memories of the author's warm home life.  Its lyrical, repeated text is reminiscent of 'this is the house that Jack built' with a tropical flavor. Its vivid, yet soft pastel illustrations are the kind to draw your young ones to pick up the book on their own.

The Rice Bag Hammock feels like one we would have had in our picture book collection when my kids were little. It's the perfect bedtime story—short, with a calming affirmation of the rhythm of life.

One of the quotes this Goodreads author has on her profile is from Gandhi, "In a gentle way you can shake the world." Her book reflects that gentleness while transporting you to her tropical homeland. Few of us will have a chance to visit this wonderful place...except in Shaeeza's book."
What are your favorite picture books? Do you have some old favorites that you enjoyed (or still enjoy) with your children? Do you know of some new ones you'd recommend? 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Read an excerpt from Guardian Cats with a cool widget

Tool Review: I like widget-y things, so I was happy to find this one from BookBuzzr.
Try it out and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

If you love cats and books about magical cats...

My book is out!

If you love'll love Marco, a tabby cat who dreams of being a hero, like ones in the books he reads. Life's harsh realities strike, however, when he finds he is not able to rescue his own humans from tragedy. He is left homeless—with no street skills.
Things begin to look up when he discovers the public library where he takes refuge and settles in with a good book. But the elder library cat is also Guardian of a powerful mystical book and challenges Marco to leave his safe adventure stories and follow him on a true journey.

The Book of Motion, hidden deep within the library, remains safe from all who would misuse its power. But one man, a professor who discovers the legend of the Lost Books contains hints at their possible existence, imagines the Book is his 'spear of destiny'. He will stop at nothing in his quest to find the book, the tool he believes he must have to fulfill his vision of ruling his own perfect society.

When he tracks down the extraordinary Book at an ordinary public library, he finds the last obstacle to achieving his dark dream is an unlikely opponent in the form of a young tabby cat.

GUARDIAN CATS AND THE LOST BOOKS OF ALEXANDRIA is now available in formats for all e-readers, including .mobi for Kindle, ePub for Nook & Stanza, Sony and Palm readers, as well as pdf for printing.

Follow Marco on his incredible adventure. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Writers and their cats


Here are five short, sweet reasons why I make this bold statement and chose a cat to be today's awesome tool:

1. Muses love cats. What did you think your cat was staring at when you saw nothing but thin air?

2. Many famous authors have cats, so you know 1. is true. (see author photos below)

3. You'll look cooler in a bio photo with your cat and people instantly love you for it (well, maybe not dog people).

4. With proper training, your cat will read your WIP, offering valuable feedback before presenting it to your human critique partners.

5. Cats are there for you when you're feeling blue or sick. They soothe your soul and help heal your body, offering inspiration, comfort and companionship.

"I put down my book, The Meaning of Zen, and see the cat smiling into her fur as she delicately combs it with her rough pink tongue. Cat, I would lend you this book to study but it appears you have already read it. She looks up and gives me her full gaze. Don't be ridiculous, she purrs, I wrote it."~ from "Miao" by Dilys Laing
Have a great weekend!
Join me at my new author site.

If you like my post, please share. Thanks!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Character building tools for writers | Astrological signs

How do you create a character out of thin air? Whether it's a Protagonist, Antagonist or sidekick, here's a method I've used for putting some 'meat on the bones' of my characters. I'll be reviewing two awesome tools, both astrological sites.

The first, Star Signs Explained, is generously laden with character traits for each sign. It's strictly an astrological site, but it is rich with detail to spark a writer's imagination. Here's a small example for Aries, who seems just built for the protagonist's role.

Aries are fire signs and those born under this element are regarded in astrology as adventurous, active and outgoing. It won't matter where you go or how remote or unusual it is - from the Outback to the Antarctic - you can be sure that an Aries has been there before you (or at the very least you will meet one along the way!) Aries is a uniquely naive sign. Although they are independent, outgoing and assertive they are also surprisingly trusting, often innocently walking into the lion's den at times. No matter what upheaval, challenge or triumph they confront - an Aries has a wonderful ability to bounce back.

But what if your Protag is a Pisces? There are a lot of possibilities with a character like this as well.

Mysterious and alluring individuals, most Pisces are extremely talented, but even though they are gifted in many ways, they still manage to spend most of their lives battling "confusing" conditions. Pisces is the sign symbolized by the image of two fish. Their symbol depicts one fish heading upward, the other pulling downward. This mirrors how Pisceans are frequently torn between two pathways in life, or actually do live two very different existences at the same time.
Star Signs Explained also includes each sign's ruling planet, earth element, stones, energy vibrations, secret life desires which give additional fodder for your story. Beware. This site is run by someone named Athena Starwoman and there's flashing signs next to Jenni and Lily who would dearly love to give you a psychic reading.

Just so you know, I've never called. Heck, I don't even believe in checking out my astrology for the day. But as a writer, I love this as a tool for character building.


Now that you've got your characters, how about the relationship between them? Check out Compatibility of the signs of the Zodiac to see how people with different habits and characters affect each other? Who will be the leader? Which parts of their personalities will help to develop relationship and which will resist it?

How great is this? I mean, what more could you ask for in a character building tool? It's fun and it's free-- that is, if you can resist calling Jenni. :-)


Tool rating for Star Signs explained: 4 stars (the flashing psychic hotline is a little distracting which keeps it from getting a 5)

Tool rating for Compatibility of Zodiac signs: 4.5 stars (I like how you can choose compatibilities of either love interest or business relationships; flashing psychic hotline stuff not quite as obtrusive)


Have you ever used astrological signs for character building? Do you have any character building tools or methods you'd like to share?

If you like this post, please consider sharing. Thanks! Come join me on my author website.

Monday, April 25, 2011

My author website is up & running

Here's what I've been doing. The aftermath of Jane Friedman's website webinar.

Let me know what you think.

Monday, April 18, 2011

How I got a Nook for free!

        Last week I got a notice from my business credit card telling me that I'd needed to use my rewards points before they expired. I'd planned to use them to purchase airplane tickets but you waste a lot of points that way since they can only be used in 20,000 point increments. So they never got used and I basically forgot about this hidden stash of credit.

So I hopped onto my account to see what in the heck I might want from their catalogue of 10,000 things and a light went off in my head. Synapses flashed and I thought, I'll get a Nook!

I got two $100 B&N gift cards from my 'rewards' and moseyed over to the B&N site where I already had an account.  I purchased the regular, not the color, Nook for reasons I'll go into later. 

I also got a cool Nook cover which makes it feel like almost like a book; and I love the wallpaper which are beautifully detailed line drawings of famous authors, like Kurt Vonnegut and the Bronte Sisters.

It was almost too easy and I kept having to remind myself I wasn't using my credit card in the usual way.

What was my first e-book purchase, you might be wondering? It was 'A Killing Tide' by P.J. Alderman. Her stories of 'mystery, suspense, and romance set in small port towns of the Pacific Northwest'  intrigued me. It also helped that she provided the first three chapters for free. Once I read the sample though, I was hooked and purchased the rest of the book with part of the credit balance I still had at B&N.

I'm planning to purchase another B&N card (with my rewards points) just for buying books. This is so exciting, finding free money! It's like I found this magical genie in the bottom drawer of my desk or something.

My second e-book download was free. It's Mark Coker's Smashwords Style Guide, so I too can learn how to create my own e-book.

If you like my post, please share it with your friends. Thanks!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Blogging friends near and far

One of the best things about blogging is making friends. One of my blogger friends is part of my writer's group here in town and one of them is halfway around the world. There are no time and space limitations for bloggers. Especially writers. We are everywhere. At all times of the day and night.

Rachna, a gifted blogger, was passing out bloggerly love today from Bangalore, India. I feel honored to have received two awards from her, the Sunshine and Sisterhood Award, both of which traveled all the way from New Zealand to India to California.

Check out Rachna's blog, where you'll find food for thought and plenty of information and inspiration for other writers. 

Thank you Rachna! Now I'd like to pass them on to three friends I've made during this journey.

  • Old Kitty, who faithfully leaves me a comment on almost every post--kind of like getting 'purred'.
  • Sytiva Sheehan who is one of the most gifted artists and children's illustrators I know. Her blog is currently down and out but you can see her work here.
  • And last, but not least, Kathryn who is both my online and offline writer friend.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Would you sign my e-book?

When a fan of T. J. Waters, author of Secret Signs, asked if he would sign their Kindle at his book signing, Mr. Waters took the question to heart and invented a very cool technology service called Autography.

So what is Autography? According to the website:

"It's a digital method for inserting an autograph or other salutation into an e-book. This personalization can take place at the time of purchase or any time afterwards, including after secondary (used) sales. Authors can give away signed sample chapters to introduce themselves to new readers who later purchase the full volume at their convenience. The now full copy ebook retains the author's salutation (replacing the sample chapters) without the need for Digital Rights Management (DRM) software.

Autography provides a permanent archive of these salutations. In the event a consumer's e-Reader device is lost, stolen, or switched with another brand the autograph is quickly retrieved and replaced at no cost."

Mr. Waters, along with Robert Barret, an information technology executive, plan to debut Autography at the BookExpo in New York in May.

Pretty cool solution, I think. What do you think?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What famous author do you write like?

I write like
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

Here's a fun tool that only takes five seconds. I cut and pasted the first three chapters of Guardian Cats in for analysis.

If only it were true... but it sure made me feel cool.
Who do you write like? Let me know.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Review of Jane Friedman's webinar: 5 Essential Components of a Strong Author Website

I attended Jane Friedman's Webinar this morning: 5 Essential Components of a Strong Author Website.

Now I've been to webinars before. Most of them were so boring, I was forced to multitask just to stay awake. But I expected more from a Writer's Digest webinar especially with a price tag of $79. It was my first and it took me 3 days to decide whether I should pop the credit card out. After all, I could probably find this stuff on the Internet for free, right?

But I took the plunge. I was not disappointed. Or bored. And no, you won't get the same stuff browsing the Internet.

I won't give away any of her secrets because you can go to her writer's blog, website, and twitter where she generously shares her knowledge of writing and publishing. But you won't get a bag full of tools all packed up and ready to go like you will on her webinar.

Jane’s presentation was chock full of professional advice: the do’s and don’ts of what to put on a website, how to develop ‘social currency’ and analyzing your traffic. I actually understand Google Analytics a bit better now.

I took notes the whole time just because I'm a note taker and it helps me focus. But the webinar is available to me for a full year if I need to go back and review it. It was worth the price.

I already have a so-so website, but I knew it needed therapy. Now I feel like I have the medicine bag full of remedies and can’t wait to get to work.

Two thumbs up for today’s Writer's Tool! With some encouragement, maybe she'll host it again.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cheap Thrills: Where to find 25 cent books

While I plan to offer my readers an e-book, it's only one of the choices on the new smorgasbord of reading options these days. I love print books too much to deprive myself, if not my readers, the tactile experience of real, as well as virtual books.

I track news stories about libraries and when I see another one going bookless, I'm horrified. But I'm not all doom and gloom about the future of the print book. Too many people love them as much as I do which brings me to the gist of my post.

Our local Friends of the Library had our Spring Book Sale over the weekend. As a member I put in some volunteer time. I sorted and displayed and bagged books. As people dug through the the bottom of their pockets and purses for quarters, some of them told me about their love of books and libraries. There was a quiet passion in their admission, sort of like a confession. Guilty pleasures. Cheap thrills.

While I was enjoying my alter persona as a bookseller, I thought about how in a world of diminishing print books, we might lose the opportunity to offer 25 cent book bargains to the community.

Not everyone can afford or even wants a Kindle. There will never be the same passion for an e-reader as there is for real books and a bookless library would never have a used e-book sale.

I'm sure most writers would consider having their book end up at a used book sale some kind of sad fate. But I don't think so. We had plenty of best selling authors, Harry Potter included, and it just means more people are getting to read them. So I'm hoping that writers who are in the throws of publishing will not stop at e-booking and work to get it into print. You never know where that book will end up.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Writers: remember to back up your WIP!

What is the sound of one computer crashing? A friend of mine answered: Expensive. But the cost of replacing a hard drive is minimal to the cost of losing your work.

My hard drive crashed this week. There was no warning, except a weird fading out of my browser. Then my computer got really spastic and a simple restore point wasn't even possible.

Amazingly, thankfully, I had backed up my WIP the day before. In fact I had backed up all my files to a flash drive recently. I'm up and running again with only three days of computer withdrawal.

So today's tool is a simple, but important reminder: Back up your files, especially your beloved book in progress. Keep a flash drive handy or simply email it to yourself as an attachment.

You never know what you're computer is up to when you're not there! Even though this is April Fool's Day, losing your work is no joke!

Happy Friday. Please share this with a friend.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Traditional vs. e-publishing: War or peace?

I love the feel of a print book in my hand and I haven't gotten an e-reader. Yet. But that's me as a reader. As a writer, though, I have to look at the whole e-publishing thing through different eyes.

I'm not technologically challenged. I love my laptop and my iPhone, but I've been viewing e-publishing and traditional publishing as an either/or thing. My passion for books and libraries sways me towards print and I have this nagging feeling of betrayal if I choose to e-publish. After all, a core theme in GUARDIAN CATS is the saving of books and libraries. But my arguments against e-publishing are diminishing as I've discovered Overdrive, supplier of digital content to libraries and schools. Seems like a smart thing to include in an e-publish marketing plan.

If you're following the buzz, the whole publishing world seems to be up for grabs. If you've been buried in your WIP (good for you!) and haven't been paying attention, here's what happening in a nutshell. Established writers are going 'indie' while new authors, using the 'e-book first' strategy, are getting noticed and offered contracts by traditional publishers. (See the link to Jane Friedman's post below.)

I haven't seen any statistics on this. But I'm following a lot of authors, agents and bookish friends on my Twitter and blog feeds and watching the trends closely.

For instance:
If, like me, you are pondering publishing options, it's pretty crazy out there and things are changing quickly. If you haven't gone 'Twitter', I would highly recommend it. My Tweeps are 90% writers, agents, publishers, and what I call 'bookish' friends who keep up with the publishing world on a minute by minute basis.

It's mind blowing, but a really exciting time to be at this juncture in the publishing industry. For sane and respected advice you are probably already aware of, read the Pros blogs, many listed on my side bar.
Now I'm thinking that there's room for it all. Why would more options for reading be a bad thing? Upon closer examination, it doesn't appear to be the tug-of-war as I first thought. But then I'm a child of the 60's who still believes that somehow it's possible that we can 'work it out'.

I'm still researching e-readers, waiting until one of them jumps out at me and screams 'Take me! I'm yours!' 

Follow my 'bookish' Tweets. I'll follow you back. It'll be fun.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Are kids reading eBooks?

While I'm seeing light at the end of the tunnel for completion of GUARDIAN CATS, I'm considering all my publishing options. Between Twitter, Google news feeds and industrial strength writer's blogs, a picture of what's happening in the publishing business comes to mind, resembling the wild west.

E-publishing was not at the top of my marketing plan priorities for Guardian Cats, but Amanda Hocking and Barry Eisler have tipped the scale in its favor for many writers, myself included. But I still have reservations.

I don't write paranormal romance like Hocking. I write for kids. So I need to know--are 9-12 year olds reading ebooks? Research, feedback from my favorite librarian and intuition all say 'yes.'

Cats love ebooks too!

The article, More children now reading ebooks agrees and the NY Times recent post, E-Readers catch younger eyes and go in backpacks  supports my hunch as well.

With children's fondness for gadgets, e-readers could very well become gateway devices for an upsurge in reading. I sought the opinion of a friend of mine, a long time librarian who specializes in children's literacy and she thinks e-books are a definite trend for kids--that they are starting to get mom and dad's hand-me-down readers as newer, shinier ones keep coming out.

I also see where a parent's e-reader with kid's books on it could easily become a staple for car rides. I can see where my granddaughter, a voracious reader in a town whose library has been closed down, would take to an e-reader like a duck to water. 

I'm still pondering my route to publishing, excited about all the possibilites and I believe there's room for it all--paper and digital, indie and traditional publishing. I believe that writers will help carve out this new world as we have more possibilites. I also believe that as we publish more quality writing to the digital world that there is an audience waiting to gobble it up.

My hope is that as writers, we can help each other use and understand this new bookish digital world by sharing our experiences and thoughts.

As a writer, what do you think about publishing your work digitally?
As a reader, how are you responding to e-books and e-readers?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

How to win a free copy of The Story Book by David Baboulene

Win a free copy of The Story Book over at my friends blog: Rachna's Scriptorium. Rachna teaches creative writing in Bangalore, India and her blog is loaded with good writing tips.

David's book looks like an awesome resource for story development so I'm adding it to my Tools for Writers. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

One good reason for Persistence | Tools for writers

Learning to write is like learning to play the violin.

The first tentative scratches on a violin rend the atmosphere like a love-sick cat. The violinist must learn to survive the caterwauling and not succumb to jeers and taunts from her inner critic.

After a jillion hours of practice, the violinist is no longer separate from the violin and her very pores are filled with the vibration of sound.  In her waking hours, when she is not playing, she feels the curve of her wrist around the instrument, and her head inclines toward her shoulder. Waking or sleeping, music haunts her with the bittersweet longing of a lover. She has lost all perspective. Is she the musician or the instrument? She seeks every opportunity to slip free from the ties of normal life and rejoin her soul mate.

Going too long without her instrument leaves her gasping for air. The violin, the music and the violinist breathe as one.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Tools for Writers | How to organize notes from your 'napkin moments'

Are you looking for ways to organize your writing projects? Does your creative write right brain strike at all hours of the day and night. Do you have sticky notes, scraps of yellow pads and pages ripped from spirals produced from what I call 'napkin moments'.

Writing is a messy business. Ideas often come when you're not sitting conveniently at your computer. You could be on your way to the dentist when you suddenly discover your Antagonist's mother was a gypsy. Or you're making spaghetti and you realize your Protagonist, unbeknownst to you, has befriended someone most people would consider a scoundrel. You must write these things on the closest piece of paper available or take the risk of having them float forever off into the aethers.

So I was cleaning up all those paper bits of flotsam and jetsam, trying to figure out what to salvage and how in the world I could avoid the time-sucking job of entering them on my computer. TaDa! A brilliant flash of light appeared, proving that my right and left brain occasionally cooperate.

The answer? Clear poly folders. They're wonderfully low tech and the method involves absolutely no organizational skills, other than deciding what color tab to use for which project. I've been using these in my non-writing life, so I don't know why I hadn't thought to use them like this. It was one of those, I hate to say it, 'duh' moments.

Here's what I'm talking about. This particular design has color strips extending on the side with a writing strip for labeling. They're sealed on two sides only, easily accessible and feel nice in a heavy duty, but see-through kind of way.

They're only $5.99 for a 10 pack from Staples. I think Office Depot carries them too, but they like to hide them at the stores so I'm ordering the next batch online.

How about you? Do you have 'napkin moments' and a lot of messy scraps of paper that are just too good to throw away? What do you do with them?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tools for writers: Choosing your book title

 After careful consideration and a short consultation with my advisory board, I've decided to alter the title of my book. Nothing too drastic, but I thought I would make it official here and use this chance to share a useful Google tool.

Advisory board
For the last year, the title of my book has been Guardian Cats and the Lost Books of Iskandriyah. The story is based on a mystical book saved from the burning of Alexandria's legendary library.
'Iskandriyah' is Arabic for Alexandria and I had originally decided to use that version, because I liked the exotic-ness of the word and it fit well with the fantasy genre. But for a long time, something has bothered me about it, so I stopped to analyze it.

  1. First of all, although I love the word 'Iskandriyah', it's really hard to spell. More importantly,  Alexandria is a real city and the Library is a real place. The burning of the library was a famous historic event, so although my book is fantasy, it has a reality base. 
  2. There's also city in Iraq named Iskandariyah and I thought that would add to the confusion. 
  3. This next part has to do with very practical considerations, that of searchability. There is a cool Google Insights Tool that lets you enter keywords and compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, time frames and properties. You can tweak this or use the simple results for a quick check. Here's what I found for my search terms:
    • 'Alexandria' yielded 87 out of a possible 100.
    • 'Library of Alexandria' yielded 51 out of a possible 100.
    • 'Iskandariyah' yielded 20, but they all had to do with Iraq
    • 'Iskandriyah' yielded 0
If I was still had any attachment to the exotic name, this pretty much decided it for me. Besides, if I could never quite get the spelling of Iskandria Iskandriyah down, I certainly didn't want to burden my readers with such a cumbersome name.

Thanks, I feel  better now.

Have book titles been an issue for you?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Need help visualizing your story? 8 tips to kickstart your imagination

Searching for the right words?

Writers have good imaginations, but sometimes we need help visualizing details if we've never been there or done that. Here's a few tips which can help you take it up a notch as a writer creating fictionalized reality.

  1. Give your stories interesting settings. Think outside the box. Take your readers places they'd probably never get a chance to see. Imagine for a moment that your Protagonist and Antagonist meet unexpectedly at the World Egg Throwing Contest. Who knows where that could lead? Need a whole slew of odd events? Try 
  2. Is your antagonist a car thief? You don't have to go out and steal a car anymore to make it real. Most of you know you can learn how to steal one on YouTube, but maybe not like this. 
  3. A great boost for describing places you haven't been to can be found on Virtual Tourist. Photos and user reviews give you first person descriptions of their experience. No one will know you haven't been there.
  4. My favorite site for settings is Panoramic Earth which is an amazing tool that gives you 360 degree up-close views of thousands of places, including people who happen to be present at the time. I have a character who works at the British Museum and I was able to get a real sense of his daily environment by using this tool. It is highly searchable and maneuverable, as opposed to Google streets views can be good, but often seem to have a mind of their own.
  5. How do you visualize your characters? There are lots of lists that help you create their personality, but can you see them? Here's a site that lets you choose facial profiles in a drawing format. Nicer than it sounds,  you don't end up with a Zwinky cartoon. There's another site which allows you to make alterations to facial photos called Face of the Future.
  6. Have you thought about what your Protagonist wears? Is there one item you can dress them in that helps create an instant impression in your readers mind? Something distinctive that identifies him. Most of my characters wear cat fur, but one of my human characters is a natty dresser, who spends his entire paycheck just to make a good impression. He always wears a full length Harris Tweed coat, but I actually like this sporty one better.
  7. Don't forget the audio aspect of your story? Give your writing an extra boost by including more auditory senses. Is it the 4th of July and you need to describe fireworks? Need a barn owl sound? Got a scene that could use a little extra drama with some thunder and lightning? Listen to these and more at:
  8. But my favorite place for great images is Flickr. Your search on Flickr will yield high quality photos that beat a Google image search all to pieces. I always link back to the image if I use it in my blog or FB page. But another way to use it is by creating a collection of pictures that evoke the people, places and moods in your book. For an example, here's my Flickr folder I created for Guardian Cats.
What tools do you use to boost your writing?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sometimes life isn't all that pretty

This is a response to the newly issued, sanitized version of Huckleberry Finn. People who find Huckleberry Finn (along with To Kill a Mockingbird and even Shakespeare) offensive do not understand the intent of authors who write to gain a deeper understanding of human nature. Books offer us very personal glimpses into the nitty gritty of other people's lives and sometimes life just isn’t all that pretty.

Derogatory racial epithets should make us squirm. But Mark Twain was not using the N-word for shock value, or implying that it was an ok word. Huck Finn takes us on a journey to another era not so very long ago. Maybe the reality of his story jars us briefly out of our small self-absorbed universe. Maybe not. Maybe we discover things that rub our hygienic self image the wrong way. If we're lucky we might get an inkling of the idea that someone who is not like us is actually not all that different.

If we leave this world unchanged and untouched by its harsher realities, pretending they don't exist, then we've missed the whole point of being here. Purging the unsavory parts out of books seems a little like eating pre-digested food. No chewing required.

Real life is not for the faint of heart.